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Orion Gazette - Orion, IL
  • Lustron house carries interesting history

  • Editor’s note: This is the story the Orion Gazette ran about the Lustron home in 2002.



    Leon and Phyllis Atkisson are accustomed to the extra attention their metal home in Orion receives.



    The Atkisson house is easy to spot. Located on 13th Street across from Orion High School, it looks as if it is covered with giant bathroom tiles.


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  • Editor’s note: This is the story the Orion Gazette ran about the Lustron home in 2002.
    Leon and Phyllis Atkisson are accustomed to the extra attention their metal home in Orion receives.
    The Atkisson house is easy to spot. Located on 13th Street across from Orion High School, it looks as if it is covered with giant bathroom tiles.
    Built in 1948, the Atkissons’ residence is the only Lustron Home in Orion. It has a metal plaque designating the model number as 02 and the serial number as 02098.
    Another of the company’s homes is in Cambridge. Across the state, there are 370 of them. Others are scattered across Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, even Florida. Lustron Homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    When World War II?ended, veterans needed housing. Carl Strandlund, general manager and vice president of the Vitreous Enamel Products Company of Chicago, thought he knew how to provide it.
    He adapted an airplane manufacturing plant in Ohio to build prefabricated homes, using enamel-covered steel panels on the outside and more steel panels on the walls and ceilings inside.
    The plan was to build more than 30,000 homes a year. They were advertised as “fireproof, ratproof, termiteproof” homes that would never deteriorate, stain, fade, crack or peel and never need painting, refinishing or roofing.
    Strandlund’s new company, Lustron Homes, never made a profit. After manufacturing only 2,500 homes, the company closed in 1950.
    The Atkissons are retired teachers who had seen Lustron Homes in every little town they went to.
    When they came to Orion, they discovered the young couple that owned the Lustron Home on 13th Street didn’t want it.
    Owning a home with no upkeep was something that appealed to the Atkissons. They also appreciated the extra room in the three-car garage.
    Back in the 1940s, purchasers of Lustron Homes could choose from blue, tan, green and yellow for the exterior and tan or gray for the interior.
    The Atkissons noted Lustron Homes’ advertising claims proved true. The outside has never been painted, and neither has the gray inside.
    Each Lustron Home was manufactured in Columbus, Ohio, and trucked to the purchaser’s building site, where it was bolted to a concrete slab.
    All the owner had to do was move in furniture and personal belongings and turn the heat on, according to the Atkissons.
    Lustron Homes have a tremendous amount of storage space, with closets
    everywhere, the Orion couple noted.
    A Lustron Home may seem small, but designers saved space in a lot of ways. For example, all the interior doors slide in and out of pockets in the wall rather than swinging open and shut. Also, the bedroom has a built-in vanity.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Atkissons made a few changes to their home. They installed fans, put down carpet and linoleum over the original floors and replaced cabinets and added counter space in the kitchen. The original 21-inch wide countertop saved a little too much space.
    One problem with a steel house is putting things on the walls, according to the Atkissons. Drilling holes cracks the enamel, which is the same material used to cover washers and dryers.
    Fortunately, if any of the 2-foot by 2-foot wall panels are damaged, the Atkissons know of a company that makes replacements.
    When the Atkissons go on a trip, all they have to do to their home is turn the heat down, turn the water off and lock the door.
    Despite their love for the Lustron Home, they have put it up for sale. The Atkissons want to move closer to family.
    “We’ve had several people who were interested in it,” Mr. Atkisson said. “They couldn’t imagine the inside could all be metal, too.”

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